10 Must-Have Grilling Cookbooks for Backyard Cooks
This roundup of barbecue and grilling cookbooks will help you master the art of cooking outdoors. Elizabeth Karmel, founder of Girls at the Grill, curated this list of books for grill masters.
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For those who swear by Steven Raichlen’s The Barbecue Bible, this is the next grilling book you need. Raichlen has compiled all the knowledge he has gained in 20+ years of writing grilling and barbecue cookbooks. Project Fire starts with identifying and explaining the pros and cons of each kind of grill. He includes all the basic food groups but the recipes are next-level and cover breakfast, appetizers and even tofu.
Why it made the list: The cookbook explains how to cook a whole meal on the grill and provides thoughtful and flavor-packed recipes. It also includes helpful tips, hacks and charts throughout all the chapters.
Right from the beginning, you get that this is a very personal cookbook from TV chef Michael Symon. This book shares his love of grilling and smoking over live fire, and his respect for barbecue legends. The recipes in Playing with Fire reflect the foodways of Cleveland, Symon’s hometown, and the food that he serves in his restaurants. He mixes things up by seasoning his meat with deli-style pastrami spices and including Hungarian-based sides like spaetzle and cabbage. We tested Symon’s recipe for beer can chicken—and it’s tasty!
Why it made the list: The book reflects Symon’s authentic appreciation for, and love of regional American grilling and barbecue. He’s learned from the masters and taken those fundamentals to create his own spin on outdoor cooking. This is not a book for the beginner—but it is a welcome addition to a barbecue lover’s library.
Steak and Cake is an instant dinner party! It’s inspired by a class that I taught at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. I wanted to create a cookbook that was about meals we cook when we’re celebrating and sharing food with friends and family. This cookbook pairs mouthwatering steak recipes with swoon-worthy cake recipes to create dinner menus. (Think T-bone with nduja butter and mushroom tarts paired with red velvet cake.) It also has all the information you need to buy and grill steak like a pro.
Why it made the list: This is not an aspirational cookbook, this is a cookbook with attainable recipes. There is something for everybody, from tomahawk steaks to taco. This book tells a story about flavor and celebration and is full of shortcuts, hacks and secrets to make a steakhouse dinner at home.
Leela Punyaratabandhu was fed up with the tasteless, dry chicken satay at Thai restaurants in the USA. It made her realize that the live fire grilled dishes of southeast Asia are not practical for restaurants, but are best made in our own backyards. In her cookbook, she collected her favorite dishes from her childhood in Thailand and from eating and cooking throughout southeast Asia as adult. The flavors will transport you! Take her grilled oysters, for example. The oysters are grilled hot and fast and topped with a classic mixture of crisp fried shallots and salty toasted peanuts for an easy-to-execute recipe that tastes complex and refined.
Why it made the list: Punyaratabandhu made sure that her recipes would be simple to prepare in a typical Western home, and this extends to cuts of meat and ingredients. She has translated the flavors and techniques of grilled southeast Asian dishes to work in backyards across America without having to source specialty items.
How to Grill Everything is the latest tome in the “How to…Everything” cookbook franchise from Mark Bittman. He includes some basic information, but this is not a book for beginners. However, if you’re bored with your current grilling repertoire, this book is for you. The recipes are updated to reflect current culinary trends, like Brussels sprouts skewers with olive dipping sauce, bacon-wrapped chipotle meat loaf and pina colada tacos. Bittman even includes variations on the basic recipe to give you even more options.
Why it made the list: When the number of recipes that I wanted to try hit a dozen, I knew this was a book to add to my collection. The one caveat is that it really isn’t a cookbook geared toward instruction, it’s a collection of delectable-sounding recipes for the grill with equally delectable-looking photographs.
This is the one cookbook every backyard barbecue fan will want in their collection. It’s loaded with 466 grilled greats, plus easy-to-read cooking charts, seasoning and marinating tricks, how-to photos and more. This Ultimate Guide to Grilling compiles all the crowd favorites from years of cookouts and backyard barbecues in one place. It’s an ideal way to sizzle up the family’s dinner routine all summer long.
Why it made the list: This is essentially a community cookbook, with recipes from readers and fans of Taste of Home. We all know that no one contributes a recipe unless it’s tried-and true.
Adrian Davila is a third-generation chef and pitmaster carrying on his family’s tradition of infusing south Texas barbecue with Latin flavors from Spain and Mexico. His book includes recipes for Texas barbecue, like brisket and beef sausage. But unlike most cookbooks, there’s also a recipe for making sausage from scratch. It’s the same “Texas Hot Gut” sausage that his butcher grandfather starting making in 1950. If you ever find yourself at Davila’s BBQ in Seguin, Texas, order the sausages. (They’re still made in-house using his grandfather’s recipe.)
If you don’t ever make the trip, then use Cowboy Barbecue to make them in your own backyard. Most of the recipes in the book read like your favorite restaurant menu, with recipes for everything from fajitas to tinga de pollo, arroz con pollo, tacos al pastor and more.
Why it made the list: The bulk of the book is why this cookbook made the list. There is nothing like Mexican food and the mash-up of flavors from real Tex-Mex cooks is iconic but not always easy to find. The family stories and the scrapbook-like photographs from Pauline Stevens will make you feel like you’ve made the trip to Seguin and spent your vacation with the Davilas.
Meathead is the founder of AmazingRibs.com, a popular grilling and barbecue website that explains outdoor cooking, tools, techniques and recipes. This is his first cookbook and it’s like having all the best information from the website in one easy-to-access book. I think of this as the “Mythbusters guide to grilling and barbecue.” Meathead goes through all the classic cooking myths, like bringing meat to room temperature before cooking, and “busts” them. Spoiler: It’s not necessary to bring meat to room temperature; it can take up to 10 hours for a roast to come to room temperature and can cause potential foodborne illness.
Why it made the list: Cooking is science. And science can often be complex. Meathead takes these complex ideas and translates them in a way that a home cook not only can understand, but can remember. This book is for all the cooks who love the nitty-gritty explanations that go into making a great steak or ribs.
Jamie Purviance has been writing cookbooks for Weber for 20 years. In his latest book, he has taken the best of his knowledge as a master griller and teacher and put it on paper. At first glance, you may think that the book is just a collection of recipes, but it’s so much more. Weber’s Ultimate Grilling is a step-by-step guide to grilling your favorite recipes from steaks and burgers to peaches. It’s like having your own personal grilling school in a book. The book boasts 125 recipes, 200 techniques and 750 photographs.
Why it made the list: Weber knows grilling. That is an undisputed fact, and whether or not you own a Weber grill, you can trust the information from Weber. But the “Flavor Bomb” feature on how to up the flavor ante of traditional grilled foods including boneless skinless chicken breasts, bruschetta, burgers, steak and asparagus is reason enough to buy the book.
If you are someone who likes to eat at a buffet, this is the cookbook for you. Matt Moore’s new cookbook is half a compilation of some of the country’s best chefs and the food that they grill, and half his repertoire of grilled food from appetizers to desserts. The common denominator is a love for live fire cooking. You’ll be transported to the places that Moore travels to meet with his fellow “serial grillers,” from the suburbs of Chicago to Charleston, South Carolina. The gorgeous photography by Andrea Behrends and Helene Dujardin is stunningly simple, too.
Why it made the list: The cookbook is equal parts travelogue, grilling journal and recipe book that reflects current culinary styles, from Southern food and classic barbecue to Greek, Mexican, Brazilian, Tex-Mex, Israeli and Midwestern. It reflects the beautiful melting pot that makes up America and its serial grillers.